The six federal candidates may have ambitious goals, but their minds and hearts reside in the Foothills.
From increasing resource production, to making life more affordable, to keeping the ecosystem clean, each contender has a unique plan to help the local economy prosper and to keep residents healthy and happy.
Shootin’ the Breeze conducted one-on-one interviews with the candidates to find out what they have planned for the region.
John Barlow (Conservative, incumbent)
Barlow has set his sights on making living more affordable for Canadians.
In the past six years he has been elected three times, once in Macleod and twice in the Foothills riding, and one issue that has continued to burden the public throughout his tenure, he says, is government debt.
“The spending of this current Liberal government, the debt they’ve added is more than every prime minister in Canadian history combined,” he says.
“That’s pretty staggering. We have seen our debt double and now we’re over $1 trillion in debt. We have to get that under control.”
Although in favour of cutting taxes, he says it’s also important to focus on regaining lost revenue, particularly from industries relating to oil and gas. If elected, he would repeal Bill C-69, making it easier for pipelines and similar projects to be approved.
He would also focus on regaining agricultural products and natural resources lost to foreign markets in India, China and the European Union.
A rural economy cannot thrive without Internet access and Barlow promises to help connect all rural Canadians in the Foothills riding to high-speed internet by 2025.
“If we can’t provide it, they’re going to go elsewhere,” he says. “You have farmers now on the cutting edge of technology, using drone technology, satellite technology, marketing their products worldwide. To do those things, they need access to high-speed internet.”
Barlow helped facilitate deals that will see high-speed internet introduced to Bragg Creek, Stavely and Blackie in coming months. His next focus will be Cowley.
Brett Rogers (Green)
Rogers has been working on an international development project for over a decade, which has become the basis for his platform in this election.
He describes himself as a lifelong scholar, with a background in quantum science and neuroscience, who is advocating for greater scientific representation in Parliament. He is particularly passionate about genetic and epigenetic testing, and would like to make it widely available to all Canadians to help optimize their lifestyle.
He is supportive of both renewable energy and natural resource extraction, believing both can co-exist, but says renewable projects in the Foothills need to be more fully developed to reduce damage to wildlife. He would like to see bird-friendly turbines added in mountain areas with higher winds.
While he agrees with the fundamental philosophy of the Green party, he disagrees with some of its policy platforms, including the decision to stop all oil and gas projects and remove all fossil-fuel vehicles from the road by 2030.
“Canadian oil is best used in Canada for all applications,” Rogers says. “Instead of contributing to carbon emissions and other pollutants by exporting oil and then importing that oil back as finished products, we can build our economy by making those products at home.”
He says electric vehicles should be prioritized in public transportation and construction industries, and for developing nations like Saudi Arabia, China and Brazil, which contribute more to emissions than first-world countries.
Green projects he would like to prioritize include the manufacturing of more resource efficient batteries and the capture of electric energy from nuclear waste.
Paula Shimp (Liberal)
Shimp wants her campaign to reflect her love for the plains, rivers and windy skies of the Foothills, which her family has called home for six generations.
She decided to step up and run in the election to advocate against local mining projects, which she says could have devastating effects on local ecosystems.
She is particularly concerned by the proposed Grassy Mountain mine and Shimp’s research has led her to believe that Riversdale Resources, which owns the site, has overlooked two key details in its environmental assessment study.
One is the impact airborne selenium contamination could have on the $4-billion to $5.5-billion honey bee industry. Alberta is home to 39 per cent of Canada’s honey bee colonies, she says, much of which is located in the Foothills, and contamination could threaten colony survival.
She also mentions that more research is needed to identify the impacts of airborne coal dust, which has been found to cause autoimmune disease and cancer, and to lead to infertility in residents living around mines.
Shimp has been involved with the Liberal party since 1985, when she served as a political pollster and campaign officer in Calgary. Through the years, she has fed her passion for social outreach by organizing school and heritage group fundraisers, developing school food programs, creating early-childhood community services and volunteering for the Comox Valley Sexual Assault Response Team.
She is dedicated to alleviating family poverty, supporting newcomers and vulnerable populations, and strengthening disability programs. If elected, she would help Piikani Nation procure government-funded and private business incentives.
Josh Wylie (Maverick)
In March, Wylie entered the world of politics for the first time, a decision driven by his frustration with the Conservative party and its partisanship favouring the Eastern provinces.
“They end up skewing their policies toward Ontario and Quebec, where the bulk of the voter base is,” he says. “The representatives that we have in our riding are basically dictated to by the party to what they will and will not support.”
Under the Maverick party he is campaigning for greater western representation in Parliament.
The party, formerly known as Wexit Canada, is made up exclusively of western constituents, who advocate for western independence and constitutional changes that benefit the West. Under its former name, the party advocated for western separatism, but Wylie says the party has been rebranded and, going forward, will focus only on providing a voice for western Canadians.
“I’m not a separatist,” he says. “I think we need to increase our provincial autonomy and increase our provincial independence, the same that Quebec did in the ’90s.”
To Wylie, this means transferring Alberta taxes, police forces and the Registered Retirement Savings Plan to provincial jurisdiction. This plan, he says, will lower premiums and increase retirement income.
Michelle Traxel (NDP)
Traxel says her experience as a small business owner in a rural community has given her insight into the issues farmers and shopkeepers face.
As the co-owner of Okotoks restaurant Little Fast + Fresh, she faced considerable challenges during the pandemic. Food costs increased by 40 per cent and utility costs tripled, but her business didn’t qualify for financial support because it didn’t lose enough money.
If elected, she would advocate for policy change to government loans, so that more small businesses and farmers could qualify for financial support.
Traxel departs from the traditional NDP platform on a variety of issues.
She is against carbon tax and has proposed carbon sinks as an alternative.
Carbon sinks are native grassland areas that capture carbon from the atmosphere and release it into the soil. This land, she explains, could be leased to larger carbon-producing corporations that would pay the government to maintain these areas to offset output costs.
Although she disagrees with the Liberal and NDP decision to ban nine types of firearms, she says the NDP has agreed to support her outlook, even if it’s not what the party advocates for.
“When I addressed that with my party, we had a really open dialogue. It was very apparent that they were willing to have that conversation and that’s what attracted me to the NDP,” she says.
Daniel Hunter (PPC)
Hunter entered the federal race in August, but he’s played a behind-the-scenes role in politics for most of his life. Before joining the People’s Party of Canada, he followed the Conservative party closely, supporting it at leadership conventions.
If elected, he would reduce government spending by defunding the CBC, cutting funding to United Nations programs, shutting down government initiatives with overlap between federal and provincial jurisdiction, and downgrading administrative affairs to the provincial level.
He is particularly concerned with environmental social governance policy, which he says prevents Alberta oil and gas companies from investing and from receiving bank loans.
He argues that the western oil industry is more eco-friendly than the foreign buying the government supports.
“We are the most ethical oil in the world and companies on the East Coast are buying it from Saudi Arabia and countries that have very problematic policies,” he says.
When to vote
Voting will take place in Pincher Creek on Sept. 20 from 7:30 a.m to 7:30 p.m. Voters are asked to bring their voter information card, an accepted piece of ID, and a pen or pencil.
Elections Canada will not ask for proof of vaccination, but it does ask that voters follow social distancing requirements as outlined by the provincial government. If you forget to bring a mask, you will be provided with one at the door.
To find out where your closest voting station is, refer to your information card or visit Elections.ca at bit.ly/3nr6332.
Advanced voting for the federal election ended Sept. 13.
Gillian Francis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze